If you drink alcohol, drink within the guidelines.*

The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Excess alcohol consumption can lead to an increase in cardiovascular diseases by:

  • increasing your blood pressure – the more alcohol you consume the higher your blood pressure. High blood pressure damages the walls of the arteries, increasing the risk of plaque formation and therefore atherosclerosis.
  • making you overweight or obese (due to excess kilojoules) which can also lead to diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • increasing your triglycerides


  • causes cardiomyopathy – where heart muscle weakens and cannot contract properly. The heart becomes unable to pump enough blood around the body and eventually fails.

Binge drinking also called ‘holiday heart’ syndrome can cause:

  • heartbeat irregularities called arrhythmias; leading to shortness of breath, chest pain, changes in blood pressure and even sudden death.

Some evidence suggests drinking a small amount of alcohol can have a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart disease. It is recommended that if you don’t currently drink, don’t start just to gain these benefits. A healthy diet, regular exercise and giving up smoking will provide similar health benefits without the risks.

*Australian Guidelines for alcohol consumption

Source: National Health and Medical Research Council

What do the guidelines recommend?

  • For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.
  • Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.

What is a ‘standard drink’?

The Guidelines use the idea of a ‘standard drink’. In Australia a standard drink is any drink that contains 10 grams of alcohol. It is important to note that drink serving sizes are often more than one standard drink (see table below). There are no standard glass sizes so you need to look at the container for information about alcohol content.


Beer 1.1 standard drinks
285 ml full strength 4.8% Alc. Vol
1.6 standard drinks
425 ml full strength 4.8% Alc. Vol
1.4 standard drinks
375 ml full strength 4.8% Alc. Vol
Wine 1.4 standard drinks 
150 ml average restaurant serving of sparkling wine 12% Alc. Vol
1.6 standard drinks 
150 ml average restaurant serving of red wine 13.5% Alc. Vol
1.4 standard drinks 
150 ml average restaurant serving of white wine 11.5% Alc. Vol
Spirits 1.2 standard drinks 
330 ml full strength ready-to-drink 5% Alc. Vol
1.0 standard drinks 
30 ml high strength spirit nip 40% Alc. Vol
1.5 standard drinks 
375 ml full strength pre-mix spirits 5% Alc. Vol


Where to get help

N.B. How alcohol will affect you depends on your age, weight, gender, general health and the amount and pattern of your drinking. Speak to your GP or healthcare provider about your specific benefits and risks of consuming alcohol.

The advice in this website does not replace advice from your GP or healthcare provider.